Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

The Cremation of Sam McGee
Robert W. Service

Posted on 02/14/2007 4:38:38 AM PST by Clive

There are strange things done in the midnight sun
By the men who moil for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales
That would make your blood run cold;
The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
But the queerest they ever did see
Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
I cremated Sam McGee.

Now Sam McGee was from Tennessee, where the cotton blooms and blows.
Why he left his home in the South to roam ‘round the Pole, God only knows.
He was always cold, but the land of gold seemed to hold him like a spell;
Though he’d often say in his homely way that “he’d sooner live in hell.”

On a Christmas Day we were mushing our way over the Dawson trail.
Talk of your cold! through the parka’s fold it stabbed like a driven nail.
If our eyes we’d close, then the lashes froze till sometimes we couldn’t see;
It wasn’t much fun, but the only one to whimper was Sam McGee.

And that very night, as we lay packed tight in our robes beneath the snow,
And the dogs were fed, and the stars o’erhead were dancing heel and toe,
He turned to me, and “Cap,” says he, “I’ll cash in this trip, I guess;
And if I do, I’m asking that you won’t refuse my last request.”

Well, he seemed so low that I couldn’t say no; then he says with a sort of moan:
“It’s the cursed cold, and it’s got right hold till I’m chilled clean through to the bone.
Yet ‘taint being dead—it’s my awful dread of the icy grave that pains;
So I want you to swear that, foul or fair, you’ll cremate my last remains.”

A pal’s last need is a thing to heed, so I swore I would not fail;
And we started on at the streak of dawn; but God! he looked ghastly pale.
He crouched on the sleigh, and he raved all day of his home in Tennessee;
And before nightfall a corpse was all that was left of Sam McGee.

There wasn’t a breath in that land of death, and I hurried, horror-driven,
With a corpse half hid that I couldn’t get rid, because of a promise given;
It was lashed to the sleigh, and it seemed to say: “You may tax your brawn and brains,
But you promised true, and it’s up to you to cremate those last remains.”

Now a promise made is a debt unpaid, and the trail has its own stern code.
In the days to come, though my lips were dumb, in my heart how I cursed that load.
In the long, long night, by the lone firelight, while the huskies, round in a ring,
Howled out their woes to the homeless snows—O God! how I loathed the thing.

And every day that quiet clay seemed to heavy and heavier grow;
And on I went, though the dogs were spent and the grub was getting low;
The trail was bad, and I felt half mad, but I swore I would not give in;
And I’d often sing to the hateful thing, and it hearkened with a grin.

Till I came to the marge of Lake Lebarge, and a derelict there lay;
It was jammed in the ice, but I saw in a trice it was called the “Alice May.”
And I looked at it, and I thought a bit, and I looked at my frozen chum;
Then “Here,” said I, with a sudden cry, “is my cre-ma-tor-eum.”

Some planks I tore from the cabin floor, and I lit the boiler fire;
Some coal I found that was lying around, and I heaped the fuel higher;
The flames just soared and the furnace roared—such a blaze you seldom see;
Then I burrowed a hole in the glowing coal, and I stuffed in Sam McGee.

Then I made a hike, for I didn’t like to hear him sizzle so;
And the heavens scowled, and the huskies howled, and the wind began to blow.
It was icy cold, but the hot sweat rolled down my cheeks, and I don’t know why;
And the greasy smoke in an inky cloak went streaking down the sky.

I do not know how long in the snow I wrestled with grisly fear;
But the stars came out and they danced about ere again I ventured near;
I was sick with dread, but I bravely said: “I’ll just take a peep inside.
I guess he’s cooked, and it’s time I looked;” . . . then the door I opened wide.

And there sat Sam, looking cool and calm, in the heart of the furnace roar;
And he wore a smile you could see a mile, and he said: “Please close that door.
It’s fine in here, but I greatly fear you’ll let in the cold and storm—
Since I left Plumtree, down in Tennessee, it’s the first time I’ve been warm.”

There are strange things done in the midnight sun
By the men who moil for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales
That would make your blood run cold;
The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
But the queerest they ever did see
Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
I cremated Sam McGee.

TOPICS: Culture/Society
KEYWORDS: midnightsun

1 posted on 02/14/2007 4:38:40 AM PST by Clive
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: Alberta's Child; albertabound; AntiKev; backhoe; Byron_the_Aussie; Cannoneer No. 4; ...


2 posted on 02/14/2007 4:39:00 AM PST by Clive
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Clive

I'm not sure but I think I read that in school.

3 posted on 02/14/2007 4:40:21 AM PST by cripplecreek (Peace without victory is a temporary illusion.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Clive

4 posted on 02/14/2007 4:43:06 AM PST by billorites (freepo ergo sum)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Clive

I'm guessing you're trying to say it's cold over your way these days? I'm familiar with the poem, and having grown up in northern Wisconsin (though I'm safe and warm now in St. Louis) I can relate.

5 posted on 02/14/2007 4:45:16 AM PST by FairWitness
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Clive

I love that poem!! My dad used to read that (and other) poems to us when we were little. Brings back memories!

6 posted on 02/14/2007 4:46:44 AM PST by LIConFem
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: Clive

Robert Service, "The Bard of the Yukon" - quite appropriate on a snowy cold day as today. I can't hear this poem without thinking of Jean Shepherd, who did the best reading of it that I've ever heard.

7 posted on 02/14/2007 4:48:26 AM PST by andy58-in-nh
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Clive
One of my Fav's! there's a cool telling by an older gentleman in what appears to a be a cabin in the arctic here:

Sam McGee

I've been pestering Wife and Kidz with this for a couple of months. I think in the Spring I'll move on to "The Wreck of the Hesperus."


8 posted on 02/14/2007 4:50:54 AM PST by prisoner6 (Right Wing Nuts hold the country together as the loose screws of the Left fall out.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Clive
I love Robert W Service!
The Men That Don't Fit In

There's a race of men that don't fit in,
A race that can't stay still;
So they break the hearts of kith and kin,
And they roam the world at will.
They range the field and they rove the flood,
And they climb the mountain's crest;
Theirs is the curse of the gypsy blood,
And they don't know how to rest.

If they just went straight they might go far;
They are strong and brave and true;
But they're always tired of the things that are,
And they want the strange and new.
They say: "Could I find my proper groove,
What a deep mark I would make!"
So they chop and change, and each fresh move
Is only a fresh mistake.

And each forgets, as he strips and runs
With a brilliant, fitful pace,
It's the steady, quiet, plodding ones
Who win in the lifelong race.
And each forgets that his youth has fled,
Forgets that his prime is past,
Till he stands one day, with a hope that's dead,
In the glare of the truth at last.

He has failed, he has failed; he has missed his chance;
He has just done things by half.
Life's been a jolly good joke on him,
And now is the time to laugh.
Ha, ha! He is one of the Legion Lost;
He was never meant to win;
He's a rolling stone, and it's bred in the bone;
He's a man who won't fit in.

9 posted on 02/14/2007 4:51:08 AM PST by wizecrakker (Trying to behave)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Clive

Yep, that's a typical Tennessean!

10 posted on 02/14/2007 4:51:25 AM PST by NewCenturions
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Clive

This Tennesean is headed that way in May. I'll look for the ashes.

11 posted on 02/14/2007 4:51:42 AM PST by bert (Obama's people enslaved Black Americans.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: andy58-in-nh
SHEP! I'm such a huge fan! I really did listen to him in the middle of the night oh so long ago!

IIRC didn't he do a reading of Sam McGee on the episode of Jean Sheperd's America? It was the one where he holed up in a blizzard at a truck stop at Donner Summit.

I've got my 16 year old sone hooked on "In God We Trust, All Other's Pay Cash!" Both his older brother and sister are Shep fans too.

His style really crossed boundaries and strikes a resonant chord.

I work with Jack Bogut...Pittsburgh radio legend...who is also a great story teller. Similar to Shep. Check out his webpage at

Jack Bogut


12 posted on 02/14/2007 4:57:53 AM PST by prisoner6 (Right Wing Nuts hold the country together as the loose screws of the Left fall out.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 7 | View Replies]

To: Clive

One of my all-time favorite poems.

13 posted on 02/14/2007 4:58:35 AM PST by Past Your Eyes (Some people are too stupid to be ashamed.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: cripplecreek
I'm not sure but I think I read that in school.

We memorized that in grade school (Lachute, Quebec). Cold like that was common in those days.

14 posted on 02/14/2007 5:06:43 AM PST by BlazingArizona
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 3 | View Replies]

To: prisoner6

That was cool!

15 posted on 02/14/2007 5:08:05 AM PST by ReleaseTheHounds (“The demagogue is one who preaches doctrines he knows to be untrue to men he knows to be idiots.”)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 8 | View Replies]

To: Clive; LIConFem

We have a couple of Robert Service's books around here somewhere. I read from them to my girls while they were growing up. Sam McGee was for days like today. On the days like the day after the last election, I brought out this one:

by Robert W. Service

If you're up against a brusier and you're getting knocked about --

If you're feeling pretty groggy, and you're licked beyond a doubt --

Don't let him see you're funking, let him know with every clout,
Though your face is battered to a pulp, your blooming heart is stout;
Just stand upon your pins until the beggar knocks you out --
And grin.

This life's a bally battle, and the same advice holds true
Of grin.

If you're up against it badly, then it's only one on you,
So grin.

If the future's black as thunder, don't let people see you're blue;
Just cultivate a cast-ron smile of joy the whole day through;
If they call you"Little Sunshine," wish that they'd no troubles too --
You may -- grin.

Rise up in the morning with the will that, smooth or rough,
You'll grin.

Sink to sleep at midnight, and although you're feeling tough,
Yet grin.

There's nothing gained by whining, and you're not that kind of stuff;
You're a fighter from way back, and you won't take a rebuff;
Your trouble is that you don't know when you have had enough --
Don't give in.

If Fate should down you, just get and take another cuff;
You bank on it that there is no philosophy like bluff,
And grin.

16 posted on 02/14/2007 5:19:25 AM PST by magslinger (Ask Dad. He'll know. And on the off chance he doesn't, he'll make up something good.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Clive

My sister, a born actress, read that to me when I was 10 years old, in bed with a cold. She scared the crap out of me.

17 posted on 02/14/2007 5:23:58 AM PST by TET1968 (SI MINOR PLUS EST ERGO NIHIL SUNT OMNIA)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Clive
There are strange things done in the midnight sun

By the men who moil for gold;

The Arctic trails have their secret tales

That would make your blood run cold;

The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,

But the queerest they ever did bore

Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge

I cremated Allen Gore.

Now Allen Gore was from Tennessee, where the cotton blooms, they blow.

Why he left his home in the South to roam ‘round the Pole, only Global Warmers know.

He was always cold, but the land of gold seemed to hold him like a son of a whore;

Though he’d often say in his bellicose way that it all would melt one day.

( Hey, this is fun!)

18 posted on 02/14/2007 5:23:59 AM PST by Candor7 (Duncan Hunter for President)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: prisoner6
I've been a Jean Shepherd fan since I was 12 or so, and I also used to listen to him on my clock radio, first at the urging of my father, and later as a rabid fan.

I believe he did read Sam McGee on one of his PBS-TV shows, and I think he also did "The Shooting of Dan McGrew". Imagine Donner Summit in a blizzard- perfect. I can't tell you how many times I've read and re-read "In God We Trust" but also "Wanda Hickey's Night of Golden Memories", and "Fistful of Fig Newtons".

To this day, Shep remains the greatest storyteller I have ever heard, though I'll give Mr. Bogut a listen -and I thank you for the link.

19 posted on 02/14/2007 5:52:55 AM PST by andy58-in-nh
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 12 | View Replies]

To: Clive

Thanks, I have been meaning to find this one.

20 posted on 02/14/2007 6:06:53 AM PST by fireforeffect (A kind word and a 2x4, gets you more than just a kind word.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: prisoner6
Wife and I originally from westmoreland, Irwin & Calumet. We live 110 miles downriver from dawson and travel the yukon alot. Many old ghost towns from gold rush days; little more than 100 years and almost completely gone from landscape. Towns of 2000-5000 men every 20 miles or so and all that remains is the overgrowth of brush where town site once stood. Our community which was once the territorial capital of 10,000, now 100 whites, 30 Indians. I enjoy scrounging around these old sites and thinking about the people not all that far back.

Alot of the locals still operate dredges, less regulation along with less people. You have to haul everything in when trails are hard by snowmachine. When I get 75 miles back these old trails, cold, wet, and tired; and think about how tough the people were back then; I wonder about our future. Wasn't any social network, quite a few factors came into play concerning ones survival and I believe that generally stimulated the best in people. Different today.

I temper that thought in anticipation of Pens/Blkhawks game I will be watching later today on Center Ice HD. Naw, no going back for me either; luv that big Samsung as much as country up here too;;; at least in February that is. Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

21 posted on 02/14/2007 6:17:24 AM PST by Eska
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 12 | View Replies]

To: Clive
"...a promise made is a debt unpaid..."

Bringing tears to my eyes with this one, Clive.

My grandfather used to recite this to me when I was a little girl and I loved it.

Thank you.

22 posted on 02/14/2007 6:23:14 AM PST by Dinah Lord (fighting the Islamofascist Jihad - one keystroke at a time...)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Clive

When we had some houseguests once for a hunting season, one of my husband's friends recited this poem to all of us, by the light of a fire, late at night.

It rose from him in the midst of conversation and I can tell you, I never heard Richard Burton or Olivier deliver lines with as much emotion as he did that night.

Good stuff!

23 posted on 02/14/2007 6:30:35 AM PST by trimom
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: wizecrakker

Robert Service
The Shooting of Dan McGrew

A bunch of the boys were whooping it up in the Malamute
The kid that handles the music-box was hitting a jag-time
Back of the bar, in a solo game, sat Dangerous Dan McGrew,
And watching his luck was his light-o'-love, the lady that's
known as Lou.

When out of the night, which was fifty below, and into the din and the glare,
There stumbled a miner fresh from the creeks, dog-dirty, and
loaded for bear.
He looked like a man with a foot in the grave and scarcely thestrength of a louse,
Yet he tilted a poke of dust on the bar, and he called for
drinks for the house.
There was none could place the stranger's face, though we
searched ourselves for a clue;
But we drank his health, and the last to drink was Dangerous
Dan McGrew.

There's men that somehow just grip your eyes, and hold them hard like a spell;
And such was he, and he looked to me like a man who had lived in hell;
With a face most hair and the dreary stare of a dog whose day is done,
As he watered the green stuff in his glass, and the drops fell one by one.
Then I got to figgering who he was, and wondering what he'd do,
And I turned my head - and there watching him was the lady
that's known as Lou.

His eyes went rubbering round the room, and he seemed in a
kind of daze,
Till at last that old piano fell in the way of his wandering
The rag-time kid was having a drink; there was no one else on the stool,
So the stranger stumbles across the room, and flops down there like a fool.
In a buckskin shirt that was glazed with dirt he sat, and I
saw him sway;
Then he clutched the keys with his talon hands - my God! but
that man could play.

Were you ever out in the Great Alone, when the moon was awful clear,
And the icy mountains hemmed you in with a silence you most
could hear;
With only the howl of a timber wolf, and you camped there in
the cold,
A half-dead thing in a stark, dead world, clean mad for the
muck called gold;
While high overhead, green, yellow, and red, the North Lights swept in bars? -
Then you've a hunch what the music meant...hunger and night
and the stars.

And hunger not of the belly kind, that's banished with bacon
and beans,
But the gnawing hunger of lonely men for a home and all that
it means;
For a fireside far from the cares that are, four walls and a
roof above;
But oh! so cramful of cozy joy, and crowned with a woman's
love -
A woman dearer than all the world, and true as Heaven is true -
(God! how ghastly she looks through her rouge, - the lady that's known as Lou.)

Then on a sudden the music changed, so soft that you scarce
could hear;
But you felt that your life had been looted clean of all that it once held dear;
That someone had stolen the woman you loved; that her love was a devil's lie;
'Twas the crowning cry of a heart's despair, and it thrilled you through and though -
"I guess I'll make it a spread misere," said Dangerous Dan

The music almost died away...then it burst like a pent-up flood;
And it seemed to say, "Repay, repay," and my eyes were blind
with blood.
The thought came back of an ancient wrong, and it stung like a frozen lash,
And the lust awoke to kill, to kill...then the music stopped
with a crash,
And the stranger turned, and his eyes they burned in a most
peculiar way;
In a buckskin shirt that was glazed with dirt he sat, and I
saw him sway;
Then his lips went in in a kind of grin, and he spoke, and his voice was calm,
And "Boys," says he, "you don't know me, and none of you care a damn;
But I want to state, and my words are straight, and I'll bet my poke they're true,
That one of you is a hound of hell...and that one is Dan McGrew."

Then I ducked my head, and the lights went out, and two guns
blazed in the dark,
And a woman screamed, and the lights went up, and two men lay stiff and stark.
Pitched on his head, and pumped full of lead, was Dangerous Dan McGrew,
While the man from the creeks lay clutched to the breast of the Lady that's known as Lou.

These are the simple facts of the case, and I guess I ought
to know.
They say that the stranger was crazed with "hooch", and I'm not denying it's so.
I'm not so wise as the lawyer guys, but strictly between us
two -
The woman that kissed him and - pinched his poke - was the
lady that's known as Lou.

24 posted on 02/14/2007 6:39:33 AM PST by Jack Hammer
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 9 | View Replies]

To: Clive

Rudyard Kipling
The Ballad of Boh Da Thone

Burma War, 1883-85

This is the ballad of Boh Da Thone,
Erst a Pretender to Theebaw's throne,
Who harried the District of Alalone:
How he met with his fate and the V.P.P.
At the hand of Harendra Mukerji,
Senior Gomashta, G.B.T.

Boh Da Thone was a warrior bold:
His sword and his rifle were bossed with gold,

And the Peacock Banner his henchmen bore
Was stiff with bullion, but stiffer with gore.

He shot at the strong and he slashed at the weak
From the Salween scrub to the Chindwin teak:

He crucified noble, he scarified mean,
He filled old ladies with kerosene:

While over the water the papers cried,
"The patriot fights for his countryside!"

But little they cared for the Native Press,
The worn white soldiers in khaki dress,

Who tramped in the jungle and camped in the byre,
Who died in the swamp and were tombed in the mire,

Who gave up their lives at the Queen's Command,
For the Pride of their Race and the Peace of the Land.

Now, first of the foemen of Boh Da Thone
Was Captain O'Neil of the Black Tyrone,

And his was a Company, seventy strong,
Who hustled that dissolute Chief along.

There were lads from Galway and Louth and Meath
Who went to their death with a joke in their teeth,

And worshipped with fluency, fervour, and zeal
The mud on the boots of "Crook" O'Neil.

But ever a blight on their labours lay,
And ever their quarry would vanish away,

Till the sun-dried boys of the Black Tyrone
Took a brotherly interest in Boh Da Thone,

And, sooth, if pursuit in possession ends,
The Boh and his trackers were best of friends.

The word of a scout - a march by night -
A rush through the mist - a scattering fight -

A volley from cover - a corpse in the clearing -
A glimpse of a loin-cloth and heavy jade earring -

The flare of a village - the tally of slain -
And...the Boh was abroad on the raid again!

They cursed their luck as the Irish will,
They gave him credit for cunning and skill,

They buried their dead, they bolted their beef,
And started anew on the track of the thief,

Till, in place of the "Kalends of Greece," men said,
"When Crook and his darlings come back with the head."

They had hunted the Boh from the hills to the plain -
He doubled and broke for the hills again:

They had crippled his power for rapine and raid,
They had routed him out of his pet stockade,

And at last, they came, when the Daystar tired,
To a camp deserted - a village fired.

A black cross blistered the morning-gold,
And the body upon it was stark and cold.

The wind of the dawn went merrily past,
The high grass bowed her plumes to the blast,

And out of the grass, on a sudden, broke
A spirtle of fire, a whorl of smoke -

And Captain O'Neil of the Black Tyrone
Was blessed with a slug in the ulnar-bone -
The gift of his enemy Boh Da Thone.

(Now a slug that is hammered from telegraph-wire
Is a thorn in the flesh and a rankling fire.)

The shot-wound festered - as shot-wounds may
In a steaming barrack in Mandalay.

The left arm throbbed, and the Captain swore,
"I'd like to be after the Boh once more!"

The fever held him - the Captain said,
"I'd give a hundred to look at his head!"

The hospital punkahs creaked and whirred,
But Babu Harendra (Gomashta) heard.

He thought of the cane-break, green and dank,
That girdled his home by the Dacca tank.

He thought of his wife and his High-School son,
He thought - but abandoned the thought - of a gun.

His sleep was broken by visions dread
Of a shining Boh with a silver head.

He kept his counsel and went his way,
And swindled the cartmen of half their pay.

And the months went on, as the worst must do,
And the Boh returned to the raid anew.

But the Captain had quitted the long-drawn strife,
And in far Simoorie had taken a wife;

And she was a damsel of delicate mould,
With hair like the sunshine and heart of gold,

And little she knew the arms that embraced
Had cloven a man from the brow to the waist:

And little she knew that the loving lips
Had ordered a quivering life's eclipse,

Or the eye that lit at her lightest breath
Had glared unawed at the Gates of Death.

(For these be matters a man would hide,
As a general rule, from an innocent Bride.)

And little the Captain thought of the past,
And, of all men, Babu Harendra last.

But slow, in the sludge of the Kathun road,
The Government Bullock Train toted its load.

Speckless and spotless and shining with ghi,
In the rearmost car sat the Babu-jee;

And ever a phantom before him fled
Of a scowling Boh with a silver head.

Then the lead-cart stuck, though the coolies slaved,
And the cartmen flogged and the escort raved,

And out of the jungle, with yells and squeals,
Pranced Boh Da Thone, and his gang at his heels!

The belching blunderbuss answered back
The Snider's snarl and the carbine crack,

And the blithe revolver began to sing
To the blade that twanged on the locking-ring,

And the brown flesh blued where the bayonet kissed,
As the steel shot back with a wrench and a twist,

And the great white oxen with onyx eyes
Watched the souls of the dead arise,

And over the smoke of the fusillade
The Peacock Banner staggered and swayed.

The Babu shook at the horrible sight,
And girded his ponderous loins for flight,

But Fate had ordained that the Boh should start
On a lone-hand raid of the rearmost cart,

And out of that cart, with a bellow of woe,
The Babu fell - flat on top of the Boh!

For years had Harendra served the State,
To the growth of his purse and the girth of his pet.

There were twenty stone, as the tally-man knows,
On the broad of the chest of this best of Bohs.

And twenty stone from a height discharged
Are bad for a Boh with a spleen enlarged.

Oh, short was the struggle - severe was the shock -
He dropped like a bullock - he lay like a block;

And the Babu above him, convulsed with fear,
Heard the labouring life-breath hissed out in his ear.

And thus in a fashion undignified
The princely pest of the Chindwin died.

Turn now to Simoorie, where, all at his ease,
The Captain is petting the Bride on his knees,

Where the whit of the bullet, the wounded man's scream
Are mixed as the mist of some devilish dream -

Forgotten, forgotten the sweat of the shambles
Where the hill-daisy blooms and the grey monkey gambols,

From the sword-belt set free and released from the steel,
The Peace of the Lord is on Captain O'Neil!

Up the hill to Simoorie - most patient of drudges -
The bags on his shoulder, the mail-runner trudges.

"For Captain O'Neil Sahib. One hundred and ten
"Rupees to collect on delivery."

(Their breakfast was stopped while the screw-jack and hammer
Tore wax-cloth, split teak-wood, and chipped out the dammer,)

Open-eyed, open-mouthed, on the napery's snow,
With a crash and a thud, rolled - the Head of the Boh!

And gummed to the scalp was a letter which ran:
"In Fielding Force Service.
"10th Jan.

"Dear Sir, - I have honour to send, as you said,
For final approval (see under) Boh's Head;

"Was took by myself in most bloody affair.
By High Education brought pressure to bear.

Now violate Liberty, time being bad,
To mail V.P.P. (rupees hundred). Please add

"Whatever Your Honour can pass. Price of Blood
"Much cheap at one hundred, and children want food.

"So trusting Your Honour will somewhat retain
"True love and affection for Govt. Bullock Train,

"And show awful kindness to satisfy me,
"I am,
"Graceful Master,
"H. Mukerji."

As the rabbit is drawn to the rattlesnake's power,
As the smoker's eye fills at the opium hour,

As a horse reaches up to the manger above,
As the waiting ear yearns for the whisper of love,

From the arms of the Bride, iron-visaged and slow,
The Captain bent down to the Head of the Boh.

And e'en as he looked on the Thing where It lay
'Twixt the winking new spoons and the napkins' array,

The freed mind fled back to the long-ago days -
The hand-to-hand scuffle - the smoke and the blaze -

The forced march at night and the quick rush at dawn -
The banjo at twilight, the burial ere morn -

The stench of the marshes - the raw, piercing smell
When the overhand stabbing-cut silenced the yell -

The oaths of his Irish that surged when they stood
Where the black crosses hung o'er the Kuttamow flood.

As a derelict ship drifts away with the tide
The Captain went out on the Past from his Bride,

Back, back, through the springs to the chill of the year,
When he hunted the Boh from Maloon to Tsaleer.

As the shape of a corpse dimmers up through deep water,
In his eye lit the passionless passion of slaughter,

And men who had fought with O'Neil for the life
Had gazed on his face with less dread than his wife.

For she who had held him so long could not hold him -
Though a four-month Eternity should have controlled him! -

But watched the twin Terror - the head turned to head -
The scowling, scarred Black, and the flushed savage Red -
The spirit that changed from her knowing and flew to
Some grim hidden Past she had never a clue to.

But It knew as It grinned, for he touched it unfearing,
And muttered aloud "So you kept that jade earring!"

Then nodded, and kindly, as friend nods to friend,
"Old man, you fought well, but you lost in the end."

The visions departed, and Shame followed Passion:
"He took what I said in this horrible fashion?

"I'll write to Harendra!' with language unsainted
The Captain came back to the Bride... who had fainted.

And this is a fiction? No. Go to Simoorie
And look at their baby, a twelve-month old Houri,

A pert little, Irish-eyed Kathleen Mavournin -
She's always about on the Mall of a mornin' -

And you'll see, if her right shoulder-strap is displaced,
This: Gules upon argent, a Boh's Head, erased!

25 posted on 02/14/2007 6:58:22 AM PST by Jack Hammer
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Clive

Oliver Wendell Holmes
The Deacon's Masterpiece

Have you heard of the wonderful one-hoss shay,
That was built in such a logical way
It ran a hundred years to a day,
And then of a sudden it -- ah, but stay,
I'll tell you what happened without delay,
Scaring the parson into fits,
Frightening people out of their wits, --
Have you ever heard of that, I say?

Seventeen hundred and fifty-five.
Georgius Secundus was then alive, --
Snuffy old drone from the German hive.
That was the year when Lisbon-town
Saw the earth open and gulp her down,
And Braddock's army was done so brown,
Left without a scalp to its crown.
It was on that terrible Earthquake-day
That the Deacon finished the one-hoss shay.

Now in building of shaises, I tell you what,
There is always a weakest spot, --
In hub, tire, felloe, in spring or thill,
In pannel or crossbar, or floor, or sill,
In screw, bolt, throughbrace, -- lurking still,
Find it somewhere you must and will, --
Above or below, or within or without, --
And that's the reason, beyond a doubt,
That a chaise breaks down, but doesn't wear out.

But the Deacon swore (as deacons do,
With an "I dew vum," or an "I tell yeou")
He would build one shay to beat the taown
'n' the keounty 'n' all the kentry raoun';
It should be so built that it couldn' break daown:
"Fer," said the Deacon, "'t's mighty plain
Thut the weakes' place mus' stan' the strain;
'n' the way t' fix it, uz I maintain, is only jest
'T' make that place uz strong uz the rest."

So the Deacon inquired of the village folk
Where he could find the strongest oak,
That couldn't be split nor bent nor broke, --
That was for spokes and floor and sills;
He sent for lancewood to make the thills;
The crossbars were ash, from the the straightest trees
The pannels of whitewood, that cuts like cheese,
But lasts like iron for things like these;

The hubs of logs from the "Settler's ellum," --
Last of its timber, -- they couldn't sell 'em,
Never no axe had seen their chips,
And the wedges flew from between their lips,
Their blunt ends frizzled like celery-tips;
Step and prop-iron, bolt and screw,
Spring, tire, axle, and linchpin too,
Steel of the finest, bright and blue;
Throughbrace bison-skin, thick and wide;
Boot, top, dasher, from tough old hide
Found in the pit when the tanner died.
That was the way he "put her through,"
"There!" said the Deacon, "naow she'll dew!"

Do! I tell you, I rather guess
She was a wonder, and nothing less!
Colts grew horses, beards turned gray,
Deacon and deaconess dropped away,
Children and grandchildren -- where were they?
But there stood the stout old one-hoss shay
As fresh as on Lisbon-earthquake-day!

EIGHTEEN HUNDRED; -- it came and found
The Deacon's masterpiece strong and sound.
Eighteen hindred increased by ten; --
"Hahnsum kerridge" they called it then.
Eighteen hundred and twenty came; --
Running as usual; much the same.
Thirty and forty at last arive,
And then come fifty and FIFTY-FIVE.

Little of of all we value here
Wakes on the morn of its hundredth year
Without both feeling and looking queer.
In fact, there's nothing that keeps its youth,
So far as I know, but a tree and truth.
(This is a moral that runs at large;
Take it. -- You're welcome. -- No extra charge.)

FIRST OF NOVEMBER, -- the Earthquake-day, --
There are traces of age in the one-hoss shay,
A general flavor of mild decay,
But nothing local, as one may say.
There couldn't be, -- for the Deacon's art
Had made it so like in every part
That there wasn't a chance for one to start.
For the wheels were just as strong as the thills
And the floor was just as strong as the sills,
And the panels just as strong as the floor,
And the whippletree neither less or more,
And the back-crossbar as strong as the fore,
And the spring and axle and hub encore.
And yet, as a whole, it is past a doubt
In another hour it will be worn out!

First of November, fifty-five!
This morning the parson takes a drive.
Now, small boys get out of the way!
Here comes the wonderful one-hoss shay,
Drawn by a rat-tailed, ewe-necked bay.
"Huddup!" said the parson. -- Off went they.

The parson was working his Sunday's text, --
Had got to fifthly, and stopped perplexed
At what the -- Moses -- was coming next.
All at once the horse stood still,
Close by the meet'n'-house on the hill.
First a shiver, and then a thrill,
Then something decidedly like a spill, --
And the parson was sitting upon a rock,
At half past nine by the meet'n'-house clock, --
Just the hour of the earthquake shock!

What do you think the parson found,
When he got up and stared around?
The poor old chaise in a heap or mound,
As if it had been to the mill and ground!
You see, of course, if you're not a dunce,
How it went to pieces all at once, --
All at once, and nothing first, --
Just as bubbles do when they burst.

End of the wonderful one-hoss shay.
Logic is logic. That's all I say.

26 posted on 02/14/2007 7:00:28 AM PST by Jack Hammer
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Clive

Author Unknown
Bury Me With Soldiers

I've played a lot of roles in life; I've met a lot of men.
I've done a lot of things I'd like to think I wouldn't do again.
And though I'm young, I'm old enough to know someday I'll die
And to think about what lies beyond; beside whom I would lie.
Perhaps it doesn't matter much; still if I had my choice,
I'd want a grave 'amongst Soldiers when at last death quells my voice.
I'm sick of the hypocrisy of lectures of the wise.
I'll take the man, with all the flaws, who goes, though scared, and dies.
The troops I knew were commonplace, they didn't want the war;
They fought because their fathers, and their fathers, had before.
They cursed and killed and wept – God knows they're easy to deride.
But bury me with men like these; they faced the guns and died.
It's funny when you think of it, the way we got along.
We'd come from different worlds to live in one where no one can belong.
I didn't even like them all; I'm sure they'd all agree.
Yet I would give my life for them, I know some did for me.
So bury me with soldiers, please, though much maligned they be;
Yes, bury me with soldiers, for I miss their company.

27 posted on 02/14/2007 7:02:15 AM PST by Jack Hammer
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Clive

John Masefield
Sea Fever

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking,
And a gray mist on the sea's face, and a gray dawn breaking.

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull's way and the whale's way, where the wind's like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick's over.

28 posted on 02/14/2007 7:03:59 AM PST by Jack Hammer
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: wizecrakker

Hey....that's been on my profile page for some time now...Put it back!

29 posted on 02/14/2007 7:05:30 AM PST by Joe 6-pack (Voted Free Republic's Most Eligible Bachelor: 2006. Love them Diebold machines.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 9 | View Replies]

To: Candor7

I've often thought that a true measure of tolerance is an agnostic who can still tear up at these words.

Robert William Service

I hailed me a woman from the street,
Shameless, but, oh, so fair!
I bade her sit in the model's seat
And I painted her sitting there.

I hid all trace of her heart unclean;
I painted a babe at her breast;
I painted her as she might have been
If the Worst had been the Best.

She laughed at my picture and went away.
Then came, with a knowing nod,
A connoisseur, and I heard him say;
"'Tis Mary, the Mother of God."

So I painted a halo round her hair,
And I sold her and took my fee,
And she hangs in the church of Saint Hillaire,
Where you and all may see.

30 posted on 02/14/2007 7:05:32 AM PST by tanstaafl44 (Muslims cannot let Western Civilization kill itself in peace.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 18 | View Replies]

To: Clive

Alfred, Lord Tennyson

It little profits that an idle king,
By this still hearth, among these barren crags,
Matched with an aged wife, I mete and dole
Unequal laws unto a savage race,
That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.
I cannot rest from travel; I will drink
Life to the lees. All times I have enjoyed
Greatly, have suffered greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone; on shore and when
Through scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
Vexed the dim sea. I am become a name;
For always roaming with a hungry heart
Much have I seen and known - cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honored of them all ©©
And drunk delight of battle with my peers,
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.
I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethrough
Gleams that untraveled world whose margin fades
Forever and forever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnished, not to shine in use!
As though to breathe were life! Life piled on life
Were all too little, and of one to me
Little remains; but every hour is saved
From that eternal silence, something more
A bringer of new things; and vile it were
For some three suns to store and hoard myself,
And this grey spirit yearing in desire
To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.
This is my son, mine own Telemachus,
To whom I leave the scepter and the isle -
Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfill
This labour, by slow prudence to make mild
A rugged people, and through soft degrees
Subdue them to the useful and the good.
Most blameless is he, centered in the shpere
Of common duties, decent not to fail
In offices of tenderness, and pay
Meet adoration to my household gods,
When I am gone. He works his work, I mine.
There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail;
There gloom the dark, broad seas. My mariners
Souls that have toiled, and wrought, and thought with me -
That ever with a frolic welcome took
The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed
Free hearts, free foreheads - you and I are old;
Old age hath yet his honour and his toil.
Death closes all; but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with gods.
The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks;
The long day wanes; the slow moon climbs; the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come my friends
'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down;
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are -
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

31 posted on 02/14/2007 7:07:34 AM PST by Jack Hammer
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Clive

Lewis Carroll
You Are Old, Father William

"You are old, father William," the young man said,
"And your hair has become very white;
And yet you incessantly stand on your head--
Do you think, at your age, it is right?"

"In my youth," father William replied to his son,
"I feared it might injure the brain;
But, now that I'm perfectly sure I have none,
Why, I do it again and again."

"You are old," said the youth, "as I mentioned before,
And you have grown most uncommonly fat;
Yet you turned a back-somersault in at the door--
Pray what is the reason for that?"

"In my youth," said the sage, as he shook his grey locks,
"I kept all my limbs very supple
By the use of this ointment - one shilling a box--
Allow me to sell you a couple?"

"You are old," said the youth, "and your jaws are too weak
For anything tougher than suet;
Yet you finished the goose, with the bones and the beak--
Pray, how did you manage to do it?"

"In my youth," said his father, "I took to the law,
And argued each case with my wife;
And the muscular strength, which it gave to my jaw,
Has lasted the rest of my life."

"You are old," said the youth, "one would hardly suppose
That your eye was as steady as ever;
Yet you balanced an eel on the end of your nose--
What made you so awfully clever?"

"I have answered three questions, and that is enough,"
Said his father. "Don't give yourself airs!
Do you think I can listen all day to such stuff?
Be off, or I'll kick you down stairs.

32 posted on 02/14/2007 7:11:03 AM PST by Jack Hammer
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Eska

Dawson City. Great place. Spent a week there last summer
and really enjoyed the drive to the mountain top for the view.

33 posted on 02/14/2007 7:24:23 AM PST by OregonRancher
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 21 | View Replies]

To: LIConFem

Hi LIConFem,

That poem brings back great memories! My Dad and I deer hunt together and every year, around the campfire, he recites "The Cremation of Sam McGee". He memorized it in High School and still remembers it more than 50 years later!


34 posted on 02/14/2007 7:25:57 AM PST by Kharis13
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 6 | View Replies]

To: Clive

I've loved that poem since I was a boy of 8 years old.

35 posted on 02/14/2007 7:29:01 AM PST by Leatherneck_MT (In a world where Carpenters come back from the dead, ALL things are possible.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Kharis13
"He memorized it in High School and still remembers it more than 50 years later! "

Funny, my dad made me memorize The Jabberwock in kindergarten, and I still remember it (< redacted > years later)! Dad also used to recite "The Wild Ride in the Tilt Cart" and "The Highwayman".
36 posted on 02/14/2007 7:30:21 AM PST by LIConFem
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 34 | View Replies]

To: Clive

SAM MAGEE sung by Johnny Horton on "The Spectacular Johnny Horton"
(Jimmie Driftwood) « © '59 Warden Music, BMI »
There's a valley by the ol' North Pold
Where ol' Sam Magee died in search of gold
Where ever I wander in memories
I see the smoke from the pipe of Sam Magee
(He sees the smoke from the pipe of Sam Magee)

We had wandered way up there above the Klondike
Where we found the mighty mountain made of gold
There old Sam he got sick and made me promise
That if he died I wouldn't leave him in that cold
(That if he died he wouldn't leave him in that cold)

The next morning he was cold and stiff and lifeless
So I dragged him forty days upon upon my sled
Till I found a final driftwood near the valley
It was there I got the notion in my head
(It was there he got the notion in his head)

I took out my matches and I builded a fire
And I laid old Sam upon the funeral pyre
He sat up a grinnin' with his pipe in his mouth
He sang ho ho this is mighty light of south
(He sang ho ho this is mighty light of south)
[ banjo ]

The flames around him had a heavenly glow
And the northern lights were just one big rainbow
He sat there a grinnin' with his pipe in his mouth
He sang ho ho this is mighty light of south
(He sang ho ho this is mighty light of south)

37 posted on 02/14/2007 8:20:07 AM PST by spkpls4 (Jeremiah 29:11)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Clive

Brings back memories of Franklyn MacCormack and the All Night Show on WGN. Did you ever hear his HOW DO I LOVE THEE" and other readings?

38 posted on 02/14/2007 9:31:49 AM PST by UpToHere
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794 is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson